What are Kalamata Olives?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Kalamata is a region in Greece, famous for its production of olives and olive oils. In particular the Kalamata olive is often known as the Greek olive, and is distinct in taste and appearance from most green and black olives. When Kalamata olives are not used for olive oil, which is a fairly common use, they are normally brined, packed in olive oil or pickled in wine vinaigrette.

Black olives.
Black olives.

Unlike most green and black olives, Kalamata olives are a deep, rich aubergine in color. When they are soaked in vinegar or brined, they may appear almost dark brown or black. On the tree, these purple almond-shaped fruits are hard to miss because of their beautiful color. They also tend to pack more meat than the average black variety.

Olive tree.
Olive tree.

Most Kalamata olives are split prior to being brined or pickled, which allows the flavor, particularly of vinaigrette, to soak into the interior of the olive. Yet before you begin eating, be aware that these olives are usually sold with their seeds in. If you plan to serve these, eat them yourself, or add them to recipes, be sure to remove the seed first.

An olive grove.
An olive grove.

Many believe the taste of Kalamata olives is superlative to other varieties. They’re celebrated for their sweetness, their rich flavor, and their difference in appearance. Depending upon where you live, it may be challenging to find these wonderful treats. If they are unavailable in your local grocery store, check specialty food stores which have an olive bar, though you can also find this variety in jars and occasionally cans. Then you can stock up on these olives, and try other varieties to your heart’s content.

Kalamata olives made into tapenade and served with a slice of bread.
Kalamata olives made into tapenade and served with a slice of bread.

Olive oil is considered to be one of the world’s best oils, one of the good fats that people try hard to get into their diet. Olives of any type are great to add to salads if you're looking to add monounsaturated fat to your diet. You can use Kalamata olives, or any other types to salads to add a natural and excellent source of fat to food.

Most people suggest that Kalamata olives are a perfect snack alone, or added to cheese and vegetable plates. They’re also fantastic in olive tapenade, a rich olive spread popular in the Mediterranean. Since some of these olives are brined, you may want to look for either those packed in vinegar or oil, if you’re trying to keep your sodium intake low. You can rinse brined olives too, to reduce some of the salt. You’ll be unable to reduce sodium completely in Kalamata olives because they are normally split down the center, allowing greater absorption of the brine in the inner flesh of the fruit.

Kalamata olives may be added to a Greek salad.
Kalamata olives may be added to a Greek salad.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

I've always wondered what Kalamata means. I had no idea it's an actual place. Cool!

literally45

@fify-- Why don't you get pitted kalamata olives and then cut them? You could buy them pre-cut in jars too. That's what I do when I'm putting it in salads. It is too large otherwise.

My favorite way to have kalamata is with hummus. It's a perfect combination.

fify

I like kalamata olives. I like that they have a slightly sour flavor to them and the flesh is nice and firm. I dislike extremely soft olives, I can't eat them.

The only thing I don't like about kalamata is that it's so large! I put them in my lettuce and herb salad or pasta salad sometimes and they are proportionally too large to everything else. I have never come across small kalamata olives.

anon131554

great in a greek salad: kalamata olives, romaine, tomatoes, peperocini, feta cheese and a smudge of ceaser dressing.

anon58330

Do deer eat Kalamata olives?

calea

Kalamata olives are part of my favorite pasta sauce - puttanesca. It's tomatoes, anchovies, capers, garlic, and Kalamata olives (plus other ingredients, which vary by recipe). Wonderfully delicious!

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